Mark Pearl

I’ve recently been thinking around retention in the software development world. Why do some companies have such great retention while others such poor retention. It’s a complex topic but today I wanted to write about a little framework I came across called the ACM Framework.

I was introduced to the ACM Framework while reading @alan’s manager readme on GitHub. ACM stands for “Ambitious, Comfortable, Mundane framework” and is a way for categorizing the typical work a technical person does.

As Alan explains, if you look at the type of work software developers do you will find some of it is ambitious (new & challening work like learning a new framework), some of it are things you are already really good at (comfortable work, in my case refactoring messy c# code), and some of it is boring and mundane (work that just needs to get done like filling in timesheets).

Alan goes on to explain that each week he wants his technical people to have some ambitious work that grows them. He also wants to minimize their mundane work (as he says, often the mundane work may be someone else’s ambitious work).

My thoughts on ACM work

I think this framework is a great way to spark conversation around helping people stay engaged in what they are doing. Yes, there will always be some mundane work that needs to be done however too much mundane work leads to people getting bored and being unmotivated which in return results in poor quality and high turnover of staff.

I believe actively identifying the categories of work and adjusting accordingly leads to people being engaged and motivated.

Optimising ACM work

An exercise with this model is to simply list the work you do in a sprint (or in a 1-2 week period), and then classify it into the three categories. The list should have a balance of enough ambitious work that you’re not overwhelmed, and little or no mundane work - with comfortable work to fill the gaps.

As Alan says, if in reviewing that list the balance is off, we will discuss and try and find a way to get balance by shifting work around, discovering new work, or stopping work on some items entirely.

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